Matt Kenseth said he had a fast Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on Sunday – it just wasn’t quite fast enough to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kenseth went from chasing Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick inside the final 20 laps to lining up on the front row for a restart with two laps to go. But he was surrounded by Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, and Harvick easily drove away to the victory while Kenseth finished second. Not only was the effort is his best result since joining Ganassi in May, but it’s the highest finished achieved by either CGR car so far this year.
“All four of those cars were really, really fast,” said Kenseth of the final restart. “They just had a ton of raw speed. Aric [Almirola] was great; he was ready and pushed me. I didn’t do the best job taking off; I didn’t want to get a penalty for jumping the start. I started going, he pushed me, didn’t look like Kevin was going to, so I hesitated just that beat that kind of got Kevin out there.
“He pushed me up there pretty good, (just) couldn’t get going that fast. Once we got through (Turns) 1 and 2, we were pretty fast again, just not fast enough. Really the restart before that was our chance. We had on four new tires, lining up behind Denny, who was the control car, the leader, had Kevin underneath me… Kevin had so much speed he pulled up behind me on the backstretch and pretty much pushed me down the whole straightaway. Went we got about three-quarters of the way down, he took a left and passed me. There was just no way for me to defend that one.
“Those guys were really, really fast. Our McDonald’s Chevy handled great today; we were really fast. If we would have been up front, we would have been hard to beat. I just didn’t have enough speed to get around Kevin.”
The result was an encouraging one after some mixed performances since his return to competition in May, but Kenseth still saw areas for improvement, especially restarts – and particularly that last one.
“But I feel a lot more comfortable than I have been for sure,” he said. “I think Pocono was a big step forward for us. Our finishes (there) don’t look spectacular – 11th and 12th – but we’d been finishing 20th and 25th. Obviously, it’s a much better car and team than that. I feel like we had done some stuff at Pocono that really seemed to work for me, and directionally seemed to be better. The car drove pretty good here the whole entire day, too. I’m hoping we can just carry that momentum into Kentucky, just keep moving forward with that. Hopefully, get to the front like we did today, running up front where this team belongs.”
With no practice on the schedule, it takes Kenseth and crew chief Chad Johnston a bit of time to work their way to the front. They’ve been starting mid-pack most of the time, and Kenseth is still trying to get reacclimated to tracks he hasn’t been to since 2018. And while most teams are doing things with their cars that are track-specific, Kenseth and company are trying to find trends that can help them from week to week, and get the CGR Chevrolet more to Kenseth’s liking.
“The last couple of weeks have been better,” said Kenseth. “Last week wasn’t a home run by any means, but like my engineer said, it’s a base hit, kind of got rolling a little bit. This was certainly a great day for us. Hopefully, we can build on it, have another good run next week.”